First Asia Leaders Scholarship awarded at MLS

In 2018, first year Melbourne Juris Doctor (JD) student Kate Mak became the inaugural recipient of the Melbourne Law School Yao Yi & Xu Bin Asia Leaders Scholarship, an initiative made possible through the generous support of Beijing-based MLS alumni Yao Yi and her husband Xu Bin.

Kate Mak, Dean Professor Pip Nicholson and Yao Yi

Yao Yi knows first-hand the importance that financial support can bring.

In 1992, when she arrived in Melbourne on an Australian government scholarship to begin her Masters, she had $500 borrowed from colleagues and had “nowhere to live”.

“The scholarship was very important to me,” Yao Yi said. “I couldn’t have studied without it.”

Now Yao Yi and Xu Bin are paying it forward, having generously established one of several Melbourne Law School Asia Leaders Scholarships funded by MLS alumni to support students from Asia to undertake the Melbourne JD.

Like Yao Yi, Kate Mak also completed her undergraduate law degree in China and has moved from overseas to study at Melbourne Law School (MLS), a move which would not have been possible without the support of the Scholarship.

“My family members work very hard to help and support me. I’m so grateful to them for that,” Kate said.

“When I heard that I had received the scholarship from Ms Yao Yi… I cannot express how I felt at that time. It was really good news for my family. I am so grateful to Mr Xu and Ms Yao for their generous support!”

For Yao Yi, who first graduated from Renmin (People’s) University and worked as a lawyer in Beijing before moving to Melbourne to study the LLM, the support of an Australian scholarship opened doors to new career options.

While at the University of Melbourne, Yao Yi wrote her Master’s thesis on company law, which was a burgeoning area of law in China at the time. It meant that she was well placed to help transition her former public law office into a private partnership firm when she returned to China.

“I was lucky to be one of the youngest partners in the firm. They needed people with overseas experience.”

“I always felt grateful for my scholarship here in Australia,” Yao Yi said. “And that’s why my husband and I thought: ‘maybe this is our chance to repay it’.”

“The investment in people – by donating to education – is the most worthwhile.”

Kate’s is the first of a number of MLS Asia Leaders Scholarships that will be awarded, and Yao Yi is optimistic that the students themselves may one day be motivated to support the scholarship.

“That would be lovely,” Yao Yi said. “We could start a tradition.”

This would make Kate the first recipient in a potentially long-line of Asia Leaders Scholars – an “honour,” according to Kate.

“I hope one day I can be a successful lawyer and that I can do something to give back. Maybe I could set up another scholarship to help more students in need.”

Find out more about the Melbourne JD